Jail term likely after death of diver

Largo Bay
Largo Bay

The owner of a shellfish boat is facing jail after being found guilty of a series of safety failings that led to the death of a diver.

Jim Irvine, of Glenrothes, drowned after getting into difficulties in Largo Bay on March 24, 2011 while electro-fishing for razor clams.

Mr Irvine (42) had been recruited by Cardenden man Guthrie Melville (60), owner of the ‘Solstice’, based at Methil.

The ‘Solstice’ was thought to have been using an unapproved technique to make the razorfish rise to the surface of the sandy bottom by trailing unprotected copper electrodes connected to an electric welder.

Prosecutor Louise Beattie said Mr Irvine was left “truly on his own” eight metres down in the Forth, because Melville had no second diver on standby to rescue him, no means of communicating with him, and no means of getting him from the water on to the boat in an emergency.

After a five-day trial at Stirling Sheriff Court, jurors took just two hours last Tuesday to find Melville guilty, by a majority, of a string of breaches of diving at work and health and safety regulations, “in consequence of which” Mr Irvine failed to surface and drowned.

Melville was also found guilty of putting five other divers at risk through similar failings over a six-year period between April 2005 and the date of the tragedy.

Melville denied the offences. He did not give evidence, but his defence claimed Mr Irvine had simply been diving for pleasure. A charge of attempting to defeat the ends of justice was dropped.

Sheriff William Gilchrist deferred sentence for reports.

The charges of which Melville was convicted carry a possible maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment.